Lessons from the football field

Jeff Knight

June 29, 2016

Jeff Knight is head of marketing at Pepper Homeloans

Roy Hodgson (pictured), immediately after England’s humiliating drubbing by Iceland, said of his players: “They have done fantastically and done everything asked of them. I hope you will still be able to see an England team in the final of a major tournament soon.”

Now I hope that this was just a PR spin rather than it being a perfect example of management not seeing the situation in quite the same way as others do.

Either way, after the debacle of yet another football tournament in which England failed to deliver, there are lessons we can all learn – learning from the mistakes of others.

In a nutshell, any team or business, to be successful, must have strong leadership, a clear vision and a committed and motivated team.

A Little Bit of Luck?

To win any competition a team needs luck, but most of all it also needs its players to perform as a single unit. The whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. The winning team won’t just have good players, they will also work well together, be well prepared, clearly motivated and performing to the best of their abilities.

Good teams also have passion and self-belief. Iceland had those qualities – as have Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The same principles apply in business. You need your individual team members to gel as a single unit, have a common vision, sense of purpose and desire to succeed. And, of course, to engender those qualities, a team needs strong leadership.

Without strong leadership, any team will not fulfill its promise and deliver its best results. Without strong leadership, teamwork disappears. So what makes a strong leader?

Leader of the Pack

The starting point is vision. Someone once told me that a good leader creates a vision for his or her employees; a great one sets the vision and then gives the team the autonomy to go and deliver it. Did the England team have a clear vision of how to play and the freedom to deliver this? I will let you decide.

Good leadership also depends on having a support team with complimentary skills. All leaders require excellent subalterns, who can help bring their vision to life.

A leader must also have passion and drive that motivates others. A good leader will know how to get the best out of people. Just look at the success of the England rugby manager, Eddie Jones, who has just led a relatively young rugby team to an historic 3-0 whitewash of the Australian rugby team.

A good leader will ensure his team is focused on its strengths. If someone is good at advising clients but not so good at administration, then put them if front of clients and not a pile of paperwork. But were the England players fully utilised with their strengths in mind. Again, I will let you decide.

A successful business and team also needs good communication. Everyone must clearly understand what is expected of them. There must be consistency and clarity; if you frequently change your mind (and formations), it will just confuse people. Good communication is also a two-way exercise, enabling staff to share their ideas and thoughts which should be listened to.

It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a football team, rugby team, Olympic team or business team; many of the principles that lead to success are the same. It is no good having a collection of good individuals if there is no vision and no team ethic. These are the principles of success.

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